The Chicken Chronicles (1977) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for sexuality, drug use, and language (originally rated R -- would probably be rated R today)
Running time: 95 min.
Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Branscombe Richmond, Lisa Reeves, Phil Silvers, Ed Lauter, Meredith Baer, Gino Baffa, Will Seltzer, Kutee, Jon Gries
Director: Frances Simon
Screenplay: Paul Diamond
Review published July 5, 2007
A stoner teen sex comedy before they would become the norm, The Chicken Chronicles didn't have much of a blueprint to follow, which, to no surprise, means it plays out in slipshod fashion from beginning to end. It's probably more famous for being the debut starring role for Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy, Police Academy 2), who shows early signs of being the ever-smirking smart-ass that would carry him through similarly juvenile-minded comedies throughout the 1980s. It would be the first and last non-documentary film for director Frank Simon, as well as the first and only big screen screenplay for future TV screenwriter Paul Diamond, and unfortunately, the amateurishness shows for all of these first-time efforts.
Set in 1969, when the Vietnam era was in full swing, Guttenberg plays high school senior David Kessler, a mischievous and spoiled Beverly Hills boy who spends his off time working at a fast-food chicken restaurant with his best bud, Mark (Richmond, The Scorpion King). Within the confines of the film, David has two main goals: to find a place where he and his girlfriend Margaret (Reeves, The Pom Pom Girls) can be alone to have sex, and to find a way to get his anti-Vietnam story for the school newspaper published without it being killed by the school's faculty. In between, David and Mark have fun smoking weed, making their own hall passes to get out of class, and goofing around at work.
Despite a talented and attractive cast, The Chicken Chronicles suffers from seeming like the joints that end up in front of the camera were probably passed around behind the cameras as well. This is as lackadaisical and aimless as they come in the teen comedy department, and despite a last-minute effort for David to show he actually cares about something by trying to sneak in his school story on the Vietnam war. Considering how little he actually thinks about world events, we can probably assume he wants his story published because he enjoys the mischief and rancor that will occur for the authority figures trying to ruin his fun than for any deep-seated inner turmoil that needs an avenue of expression. It's just another prank to him.
Perhaps the biggest problem (among many) is that the film just isn't funny. They try to make it wacky and fun, such as scenes where they play basketball with uncooked chicken pieces, pushing out rancid cole slaw, and foot chases in the street when David is caught with his pants down. Most of it is more disturbing than funny, and it certainly doesn't have me itching to go have fast food anytime soon if his is how serious the teens treat our food behind the scenes.
The only scenes that seem somewhat inspired occur when David communicates to his parents through the intercom and camera system in his spacious home, never face to face. These sorts of angles speak to themes of parental disconnect, a lack of understanding by authority figures, and the repression of youth by those who think they don't know any better about who they are and what they feel inside. Alas, while the exploration of these themes could certainly have turned an aimless comedy into a commentary on the society of youth in the late 1960s to mid-1970s, they aren't explored with nearly as much gusto as the silly, sophomoric stuff.
©2007 Vince Leo